The 7 Best Gut Healing Foods, Says A Dietitian
When it comes to staying healthy and feeling your best, your gut is one of the first things you should pay attention to. A healthy gut keeps your digestive system working smoothly and may also affect your sleep, mood, and other body systems. What you eat plays a large role in gut health. Adding gut-healing foods to your diet promotes a healthy balance of good gut bacteria and keeps your digestive system operating smoothly.
Inside the lining of your digestive tract — including your mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines — is more than 100 trillion microbes, unique to each of us. These microbes work together to metabolize nutrients from your food, keep the gut barrier intact and functioning, and prevent the overgrowth and attack of harmful bacteria.
If there’s an imbalance of good microbes and bad microbes in the gut, you could experience several digestive symptoms in addition to other health conditions. Researchers have found that the gut microbiome may impact the risk of other diseases like type 2 diabetes and neurological conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease.
The good thing is that these gut-healing foods are budget-friendly, easy to find, and delicious. They’re rich in probiotics, fiber, and other key nutrients to help keep your gut healthy and happy.
1. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes and other potatoes are high in resistant starch, a type of starch that doesn’t break down but instead ferments in your digestive tract. “Resistant starch acts as fuel for the good bacteria in the gut,” says Amanda Lane, MS, RD, CDCES at Healthful Lane Nutrition.
You can increase the amount of resistant starch in potatoes by cooking and then cooling the potatoes. Lane recommends slowly increasing sweet potatoes and other foods high in resistant starch to help the gut adjust to the increased fermentation.
We know avocados are a good source of healthy fat, but you can also add them to the list of gut-healing foods. A 2020 study in the Journal of Nutrition found that eating avocado can also help improve your gut microbiome. They found that people who ate the equivalent of about a cup of avocado a day for 12 weeks had significantly more diverse gut bacteria and an increase in three strains of beneficial bacteria than those who didn’t eat avocado.
Whether you enjoy your pineapple on pizza or not (go team pineapple!), regularly eating this fruit can keep your gut healthy and working efficiently. Pineapple is the only food source of the enzyme bromelain, which helps to digest and break down proteins. Eating pineapple and high-protein foods like meat together can help your body digest the proteins more easily. Bromelain is successfully used as a treatment for people whose pancreas doesn’t secrete enough digestive enzymes.
When it comes to probiotic foods, yogurt is one of the most readily available, budget-friendly, and popular choices. Probiotic foods have live bacteria that can help to colonize your digestive tract and promote good digestion by keeping bad bacteria at bay. But not every yogurt is created equal.
“It’s important to make sure your yogurt has live active cultures along with a listing of the strains of bacteria,” says Amanda Sauceda, MS, RD.
You’ll also want to be wary of the amount of added sugar in your yogurt. A diet high in sugar can have negative effects on gut health, cause an imbalance in gut bacteria, and lead to inflammation, per a 2020 article in Nutrients.
While “garlic breath” might not be the desired effect, what garlic can do for your tummy will have you sprinkling a little here and there more often. Garlic is high in fructans, prebiotics that helps feed the good bacteria in your gut. As fructans are fermented in the intestine, they release short-chain fatty acids that leave the gut and have beneficial effects throughout the body.
Garlic is also rich in antibacterial compounds that help fight illness and infection, making it a great addition to meals and snacks during cold and flu season. For some meal inspiration, try one of these tasty garlic recipes.
6. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are a great source of soluble fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which can be helpful for gut health.
“Soluble fiber acts as a prebiotic fuel source for good bacteria and also promotes softer, more regular bowel movements,” says Stephanie Wagner, RDN. “The addition of omega-3s may also help increase bacterial diversity of the gut while reducing inflammation in the colon.”
If you’re wondering how to get this gut-healing food into your diet, try any one of these delicious chia seed recipes.
7. Bitter Greens
While they may not be the most delicious to eat on their own, bitter greens like dandelion, arugula, mustard greens, and radicchio are great for your gut. They’re rich in prebiotics and help secrete stomach acids that aid in digestion, which could help increase the number of nutrients absorbed from food.
They’re also high in fiber, which helps to sweep out the colon and prevents constipation. One cup of mustard greens has 1.8 grams of fiber and only 15 calories. Try adding bitter greens to salads and sandwiches, sauteed in stir-fries and scrambled with eggs!